Ausbike sightings and thoughts

Decided to go check out Ausbike recently with my colleague Rob. I think it’s probably the first time I was at a bicycle trade show, but for Rob, he is quite the ‘veteran’ having been to international bike shows like InterbikeEuroBike, and I am sure many others. Not only is he a keen rider, and knows all things bikes, he also has a bike related patent, so he (obviously the guru) has kindly offered to give some input in this post.

Power pedals

The most interesting thing that we saw was the Power Pedals. It is a Western Australia company that developed a power meter system that measures left and right power separately using strain gauges in the pedals. They have a working prototype that is ANT+ compatible and a decent program for visual feedback during stationary riding; and currently they are looking for partners (pedal manufacturers) to further develop the instrumented pedals. Though I’m not an avid cyclist, I do know there’s already a couple of similar new power meters in the market (or coming up soon), like the Keo Power and the Garmin Vector; and more power meters coming up, just check out this blog. Which makes me wonder if there’s a big enough market for all of them. Nevertheless its good to see new bike technology developed locally in Australia and I hope they do make it into the market

Rob’s thoughts: I admire start up companies like Power Pedals and the enthusiasm of Tom and Scott.  I attended the 2007 Interbike tradeshow where start ups Metrigear and Quarq were showing their bike power meter prototypes to the world for the first time.  Both companies have since been bought out by a large corporation, Metrigear by Garmin and Quarq by SRAM.

The visual display that Julian mentioned is like a dynamic pie chart with each the segment showing the magnitude of the effective or ineffective torque, which is the best bio-feedback representation I’ve seen of this data and will be a useful tool for riders and coaches alike.  However, if it is adapted for head units I think we’ll see a lot of pile-ups in the peleton as riders check out there pedalling technique on the move.

If Power Pedals manage to successfully commercialise their system and maintain a good relability and accuracy record, then there is no reason why they don’t find themselves in the same situation as Metrigear and Quarq…

eBikes

There were ebikes on steroids, a conversion kit system that you can retrofit onto most bikes, and then an ebike that looks just like a normal bike with the battery built into the frame. Generally, they either have a throttle like switch that gives you a boost on demand or they have some ‘smart’ system that detects how much torque you are putting in, and gives you the extra push based on your desired speed set on the control unit. I personally tried one at the Sports Engineering lab (when we had it for some experiments) and I thought it was a real breeze to ride and it made me seriously considered getting one. I mean, I think that’s exactly the whole point of making ebikes, to encourage more people to switch from driving to a more sustainable form of transport.

Rob’s thoughts: Two years ago Ausbike seemed to be jammed full of eBike manufacturers and distributors.  This year surprised me how few stands there were for what is supposed to be a fast developing sector in the bike industry.  I ride about 200 kms a week on the network of bike paths in Melbourne and very seldom do I see someone commuting on an eBike.  Maybe there is a correlation there?  I certainly hope in time that the price of these bikes and retro-fit kits comes down to get more people on them for their daily commute or to just enjoy a bit of exercise without the fear of lactic acid overdose.

Titanium frames

Most bike frames are either aluminum (light) or steel (strong) or carbon-fiber (light and strong) but few people make titanium frames which is also light and strong. I think we only came across one company that did Titanium frames. There’s been a lot of comparisons between the different types of frames and the bottom line is they all have their pros and cons and other than just focusing on the material itself, the overall design of the frame is just as important. But something less known and quite exciting about Titanium is that it can now be manufactured using additive technology and there is already a bike company doing that. This means whatever complicated bike part can now be made (printed) in Titanium, not that it has to be.

Rob’s thoughts: I always stop to admire Litespeed titanium bikes, there is a beauty in the shiny silver tubing and perfectionism in the welding…  So it’s good to see Van Nicholas, which only makes titanium bikes, being sold in Australia.  What I found interesting about this Dutch company is their frames carry a lifetime warranty and the warranty can be transferred to another owner after a re-certification procedure.   I’m not sure whether this perk is offered by carbon frame manufacturers?

Anyway, that’s about it. I know it’s not as much compared to what can be seen or talked about at interbike or eurobike. But the  truth is Ausbike only had 138 exhibitors while Eurobike had 1250 and Interbike had 1235, that’s close to 10 times more exhibitors; to be fair, Interbike started since 1982, Eurobike had been around since 1991 while Ausbike only had 3 preceding events. So given a bit of time, with the growing market and interest in cycling in the southern hemisphere, I’m sure Ausbike will become massive. In the meantime, what do you think will be the next big thing in bike technology or rather what do you think is worth developing?

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About Julian Chua

Mechanical engineer. Found an interest in applying engineering and technology in sports. Worked for a bit in manufacturing & product development. Dabbled in some electronics and programming. Miraculously got into a PhD along the way. Finds research interesting but leans towards the application side of things. Generally enjoys developing solutions or trouble-shooting issues in technology for sports applications. Now also attempting to combine product design & development with sports/medical technology. Runs or kayaks in spare time. Tweets as @julrx.

2 thoughts on “Ausbike sightings and thoughts

  1. Jonathan Shepherd

    Love the post. In response to your question I think the biggest thing in bike technology to move forward will not be an actual technology change rather a mental shift from the general public. One such problem is people not perceiving bike commuting as safe so to get more people on bikes I think safety improvements need to be made.

    From purely a technological standpoint I’d love to see bike lights inbuilt into bikes, maybe wired into the frame and then have a small solar panel somewhere out of the way for instance on the front handle bars or a small battery pack.

    I work for a large company that sells bikes as a sub department and I find it hard to convince people to purchase a cheap $10 rear light that could realistically could save their life (amazingly enough a helmet is also a hard enough add on). Motorists get frustrated (to be perfectly honest rightly so) that bike riders aren’t visible this is one way I think the bike company could ensure the rider is visible.

    Not sure if you also have seen the north-face have also integrated 3M Scotchlite™ into a range of their new commuting clothing. This fibre is interwoven into the stitching and when a light, say from a car hits the fabric, it illuminates the rider in the same way a safety vest does. At a price tag of around $100 or so for a pair of shorts or a shirt it is expensive ( realistically this high price tag isn’t as much to do with the technology rather the TNF brand name) but they look good and are very comfortable. I would presume other large bike clothing manufactures will start following suit and incorporate similar fibres into their clothing eventually bring down the price.

    Another push at the moment of new products I’ve noticed within my store is greener, more friendlily bike products such as lubes and also an increase in camera related technologies from brands like go-pro and contour to better capture and film the riders two wheeled pedal powered experience.

    Other suggestions I’d make to get more people on bikes would be for the government to incentivise bike riding. Easy ways to do this would be to come up with a ride to work scheme where a percentage of bike related purchases could be claimed on tax, increase the number of designated bike lanes and add a few more bike racks around popular destinations with maybe a security camera or two to deter thieves.

    Happy pedaling.

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    1. engineered4sports Post author

      Thanks for the feedback & suggestions. I think you are right about the stuff on safety and actually if you check out crowdsourcing websites like kickstarter or indiegogo, there are always ideas related to cycling safety, which basically shows its a global concern. There’s even a dual cam project on kickstarter that’s based in Melbourne, its called the spectacam (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spectacam/spectacam-a-dual-video-sports-helmet-cam-with-wifi), their motivation is both for safety and for tracking your rides. Check them out. There’s also this German reflective arm sleeve (http://www.electricfoxy.com/2012/12/light-up-warm-up-textile-for-cyclists/) that looks pretty effective, amazon has them for around 20euros, but that’s just a sleeve.

      Thanks for reading!

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      Reply

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